American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83 (4), Oct. 28, 2013.
Political violence poses a considerable threat to the health of individuals. Protective factors, however, may help people to build resilience in the face of political violence. This study examined the influence of lifetime and past 30-day experiences of political violence on the mental and physical health of adult Palestinian women from the West Bank (N = 122). Two hypotheses were examined: (a) Reports of political violence exposure would be related to reports of poorer physical and mental health and (b) several coping variables (proactive coping; self-reliance; reliance on political, family, and religious support; and political or civic engagement) would function as moderators of the effects of political violence, buffering or weakening its effects on physical and mental health outcomes. Both lifetime and past 30-day measures of political violence were positively correlated with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Proactive coping, reliance on self, and political or civic engagement significantly interacted with political violence to affect health in a counterintuitive direction; those with higher scores on these more internalized and individualistic coping strategies demonstrated worse health as political violence increased. Reliance on religious support, and, in particular, support from and participation in activities of religious institutions, emerged as a significant protective factor. Results underscore the importance of looking not only at whether political violence affects health, but also at how the relationships between political violence and health might occur, including the potential protective influence of resources within people’s social environments.